THEY haven’t gone away just yet, Loughrea, and while the names and the face of the team may change, the same ethos of hard work and a never-say-die attitude is continually nurtured within the camp from year to year.
Yes, there were times when Turloughmore had Loughrea on the ropes in this tight Senior ‘A’ hurling championship affair at Kenny Park, Athenry on Sunday evening but like the old pro, the Town bobbed and weaved their way out of trouble before landing the counter punch.
The most significant blow was Jamie Ryan’s goal on 38th minute when the equally impressive Shane O’Brien set up the diminutive sharpshooter for a clinical strike to put Loughrea 1-13 to 0-10 ahead and, more importantly, left Turloughmore chasing a result.
That Turlough would later gain parity on the stroke of full-time following three unanswered points from Ronan Badger (2) and Conor Shaughnessy (free) said something about Damien Fox’s charges fighting spirit but they then coughed up two cheap frees in injury-time to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
Loughrea captain Neil Keary, who would finish with nine points, nailed those two dead balls after Oisin Coyle and Eoin Mahony were fouled on 62 and 63 minutes respectively.
While Loughrea will be delighted with sealing an opening day win, Turloughmore, by the same token, will ponder where they went wrong. They enjoyed as much possession than Loughrea – even more – but were unable to translate this into meaningful scoring opportunities.
On this front, perhaps the stop-start nature of the contest didn’t help. In all, there were 31 frees and Turloughmore, at times, just couldn’t get to grips with the lack of rhythm whereas Loughrea were better able to manage the game-time.
Indeed, Loughrea are the masters of broken play and they have this ability to inject intensity into their game when the ball is alive. On this front, coach Gerry Spelman is a good fit and his fingerprints could be seen on this performance in terms of the manner in which Loughrea harried and hassled their opponents into overturning possession.
So, although Turloughmore had secured over twice as many puck-outs as Loughrea in the opening period, it was Loughrea who had built up a four-point advantage on a scoreline of 0-11 to 0-7.
Points in that opening half from O’Brien and Keary (free) had got Loughrea off the mark but then Turlough hit five points on the bounce through Conor Shaughnessy, Darren O’Shaughnessy (3) and a long range Jamie Holland free to jump into a 12th minute lead.
From there, however, the wheels somewhat came off the wagon for Turlough as Loughrea outscored them nine points to two over the remainder of the half. Keary was on target with five of those – all from placed balls – while Johnny Coen, Gearoid Loughnane, Oisin Coyle and Jamie Ryan also contributed.
For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.